Love the dog you’re with…

IMG_2285A frequent question from prospective clients is: Have you ever trained a ____________ (fill in the blank with your favorite breed)?

The answer is most likely “yes”. There are few breeds that I have not had exposure to, or had in class or private lessons. Some of the more unusual breeds I have trained include Coton de Tulear, Cane Corso, Basenji, and Rhodesian Ridgeback. Many breeds have distinctive characteristics, both physically and temperamentally, and I do try to take those into account. For example, Siberian Huskies are not as food motivated as Beagles, and Border collies tend to be very conscious of their personal space. But in general, all breeds, in fact all creatures with more than a couple of neurons firing, respond fairly predictably to the principles of learning theory.

I have stated in previous posts my passion for positive reinforcement training. Here is what I said about it from my very first blog:

I contend that finding a trainer whose primary approach to training is positive and uses lure/reward or clicker training as his or her starting point will: 1) help avoid future problems with your dog; 2) help you develop a relationship with your dog based on co-operation and trust; 3) increase the effectiveness of your management of the dog as he learns what is expected of him and; 4) it will more likely allow your dog to be the interactive, curious, creative and loyal friend that you want him to be.  If you start off choking, jerking, swatting, alpha rolling, or yelling, you are, in reality, instilling fear and distrust in your dog and may find that he would rather avoid you than come to you. Behavior problems can and do arise with dogs who are positively trained, but yelling at them is not the solution to the problem, it is more likely to exacerbate the issue. Why not use a method that is designed to work with your dog rather than on him?

Another question I am asked is: why family dog training? Why don’t I offer specialty classes such as agility, Rally-o, Fly-ball, scent training, etc? Putting the practical aspects aside (i.e.: space, equipment, and being a one woman show), there is a fundamental reason I focus on family dog training: most dogs belong to a family and will never pursue another career in sports or service work. Moreover, if the dog can’t function as a well mannered member of his family, he won’t get the chance to further his education.

My goal for family dog training is to provide owners with a variety of tools in their canine management toolbox that will help them to communicate clearly to their dogs what is expected of them. Having a well behaved dog is much more than teaching the basic commands of sit, down, stay, and come. It is about learning to: 1) love the dog you actually have and; 2) approach dog training as a communication method which opens up you and your dog to a life time of learning together. This relationship (based on clear communication and trust that you will interact fairly) will do more to create a consistently well behaved best friend than any particular training method.

Ball anyone?

Ball anyone?

I have found with my own dogs, for example, that having a way to positively and clearly communicate to them, results in them knowing all sorts of things I never realized I taught them. For example, when Bingley lost sight of a tennis ball one day, I saw where it was and said “Bing!” He looked at me and I said, “Go left.” He did and as he approached the ball I said, “That’s it, there!” and he nabbed it. I’d never taught him left or right (people who know me will attest to the fact that I don’t know them myself), but somehow through the years Bingley and I have developed an understanding that allows for some intricate communications. Since that day, we have lost many a tennis ball, but we have also worked together to find many more.

A client recently told me that she has a hard time calling what she learned from me training, rather it is about relationship and has allowed her dogs to more clearly communicate to her what they need (such as having the water bowl filled, thank you), and her ability to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of each of her dogs. And that, in essence, is the purpose of family dog training: learning to love and work successfully with the unique canine who shares your hearth and home.

It’s never too late to train your dog! If you are interested in family dog training, call me  (740-587-0429) and we can discuss how best to achieve your goals.


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